:: Monday, June 28, 2004 ::


ORIGINAL POST: Thursday, June 03, 2004
BY: Eduardo Navas

With summer coming our way, some of our readers might be wondering what to read over the next three months. Well, in other circumstances people might recommend books, but here at N_A_R I will recommend subjects for online research.

Today I recommend Game Theory. Given that this term has picked up some popularity around new-media circles, it should be clarified that such an area of research has been around for a long time; in many ways, it directly relates to Machiavelli and his theories of war. His ideas have been, of course, appropriated by major videogame companies such as X-Box (which Linux gurus have been able to hack to create computers out of). But what we want here are links, so here they go:

For Game Theory history check out:
What is Game Theory, Chronology of Game Theory, a mathematical branch, a synopsis at the New School, and The Center for Game Theory.

Because new media's relationship to game theory is partly through videogames, here are some videogame resources (portals) worth noting: Blue's News, Online Gaming Resource. These are of course tentative suggestions. But, one I highly recommend for its crossover to other new-media fields of research is Grand Text Auto, a well respected group blog.

ORIGINAL POST: Friday, June 04, 2004
BY: Eduardo Navas

As a follow up to my post on game theory yesterday, I should include ludology.org, a site run by videogame theorist Gonzalo Frasca. A big thanks to Garrett from the netKru for the heads up.

ORIGINAL POST: Friday, June 04, 2004
BY: Lora McPhail
I would like to add an additional resource to Eduardo's game theory compendium, the Italian-based ludologica. The project presents a series of readers on issues of gaming as they evolve:

"Launched in 2003 by Edizioni Unicopli, “Ludologica, Videogames d’autore” is a new series of books that honor the most significant videogames ever produced. Available in two formats, Monographs and Readers, these volumes discuss video games from a broad academic and critical perspective (setting characteristics, themes, and techniques in context) and explore the game's significance."
Recent titles include: Resident Evil: Surviving the Horror; The Sims: Similarities, Symbols & Simulacra; the forthcoming title Super Mario Worlds: Actions, Interactions & Explorations; several others due out this June; and Doom: A first person reader, due out this fall. Books are available in Italian, with English versions pending.

ORIGINAL POST: Sunday, June 06, 2004
BY: Ana Valdès

Hi, I suggest you look at Gonzalo Frasca's own company, newsgaming.
Their games, 12th September and Madrid, deal with politics and ethical issues imbedded in a really cool game interface.

ORIGINAL POST: Monday, June 07, 2004
BY: Garrett Lynch

Seeing as Games and ludology (the study of games) seem to be the current topic here, I thought it might be appropriate to review the work of Paul Johnson who exhibited some very interesting console-based work under the title “Score”, at the Postmasters Gallery from April 3-May 1 of 2004.

"New York artist Paul Johnson creates sculptural computer consoles that are autonomously networked videogame systems. Although conceived as games, they cannot be played or won. Instead, these games are “self-playing,” via computer software. They acquire resources from one another, mutually affecting their respective worlds. Without the audience interaction, the networked games generate unpredictable narratives that unfold in real time."

At first glance, I assumed that these consoles were the typical consoles that the vast majority of us play (Playstation, Sega, Nintendo, X-box, etc), but I learned that they are all reverse-engineered to create works that contradict the nature of their original intention (interesting in itself). In addition to engineering the games, the artist also built the hardware that was needed to run them. The works are a true demonstration of function over form (yes I know the dictum is the reverse), with wires and connections trailing across from screen to screen; parts of the computers and screens found to be unnecessary are removed or reduced down to exposed parts, creating what looks like every hackers dream: a mess of a custom-built machine, elegant only in the eyes of a technophile.

Hardware and appearances aside, the works themselves are both amusing and slightly worrisome. Being self-perpetuating games that develop their own narratives and context, they run without any user intervention. In “Trauma,” a household becomes a battlefield; or is it the reverse, illustrating that our social lives are wars or that real wars are forever encroaching on our social lives? Another work, Dark Network, compares an underground, skater group that explores and conquers urban territories daily to middle-aged crusaders who are free of social, political, and economical constraints yet paradoxically controlled by a commodities game that works in much the same way as any stock market. Surely it’s a commentary that no group of reasonable success is free from commercial exploitation, no matter how much they protest. And who can fail to see the irony in a space station intrinsically linked to the dietary cycle of a couch potato, entitled “Maiden Flight?”

If you missed the exhibition of Paul's work at the Postmasters, there will be another opportunity to see his work in September at Villette Numerique in Paris, France, at an exhibition entitled Zones de Confluences, curated by Benjamin Weil.

ORIGINAL POST: Monday, June 07, 2004
BY: ana boa-ventura

Since the last postings have been on games, I am not going to be the one to drop the subject. It's just too much fun.

The Digital Media Collaboratory (DMC)--part of the Institute for Innovation, Creativity and Capital (IC2) at the University of Texas at Austin--is organizing the next of their series of conferences in Game Development. Last year, the theme was "Artificial Inteligence;" the turnout was amazing and well beyond the expected numbers! Austin is-- and has been for a long time--a base for some of the best game companies (and games) produced.

The next conference will be on what the organizing committee is intentionally leaving, for now, as vague as "merged realities and worlds." It promises to be less directed at computer scientists and more appealing to designers, especially to "world designers." This is a bold decision, since IC2 is traditionally directed at industry professionals, and its agenda is one of applied research. The conference currently in preparation seems to be pointing at innovative areas of game world-building; maybe it addresses those professionals that Richard Florida calls the "creative class." Could this new agenda reflect an emerging trend in the field? The DMC at UT is definitely suggesting a new path in the field of "games," one that nods at MMORPGs that have redefined the concept of User's License Agreement, such as Second Life, at the use of wireless in alternative forms of street theater (read about "Uncle Roy All around you" and "Blast Theory") and at artists physically representing game environments, as Matthew Barney did at the Guggenheim with his Cremaster cycle (more info here). I don't mean to imply that these will be part of the DMC Game Dev 2005 conference, although it is a possibility. I am, however, trying to imply something that I think is far more important than the conference program: the idea that the formulas of Symposia in Game Development are changing and becoming more integrative of technologies and media, more interdisciplinary, and, as a result, more sophisticated in their agendas.

ORIGINAL POST: Friday, June 11, 2004
BY: Lora McPhail

And the horse keeps getting back up.

My mother is a savant at Minesweeper; she can clear 175 mines in expert mode in around a minute. Pretty impressive for a person who still has trouble with emails and TV remotes. So, it was not surprising to find that this month's Wired contained a feature entitled The Wrinkled Future of Online Gaming, by David Kushner.

The article highlights the significant presence of a new generation of gamers, or rather, "game players," between the ages of 35 and 54. These game players, mostly women, utilize online sources such as Pogo (Electronic Arts), MSN Games, and Yahoo! Games to make friends, "visit" with family, or pass the time.

And at 4 hours a night to eight hours a day, these are serious players, and a very serious growth market for game developers. Perhaps then, it is no coincidence that yesterday Nintendo announced plans to put out a new console, code-named Revolution, designed to attract what they call "casual gamers."

Whether or not the motivation or interests of these game players is significantly different from those of their younger "gamer" counterparts remains to be explored. Perhaps the shift might only be in the indexical attributes of the games they have chosen to play rather than in the deeper nature of "play" itself. However, considering how this newly acknowledged demographic might impact the future of commercial game development poses some interesting questions and possibilities as to how that element might also impact game theory.

ORIGINAL POST: Monday, June 15, 2004
BY: Daniele Balit

I have found a soundtrack for the games discussion that has been going on; it is called Depeche Mode Megamix, a work by Nullsleep, a young artist from the United States who is known to be the best Gameboy musician around. Fifteen years after the first appearance of Gameboy, in 1989, electronic musicians and artists are now turning all sorts of 8bit computers into audio/video aesthetical tools. There is much to listen to from the website of 8bit peoples (a collective co-founded in 1999 by Nullsleep himself), from the intimate tunes of Self Portrait by Twilight Electric Meanings to the “electrochip madness” of Mesu Kasumai. Above all, you can feel the freshness and enthusiasm of a young experimental community.